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Retro Game Club - December 19’ : Super Castlevania IV

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15 hours ago, ulala said:

It would be a better game if there we no passwords but a slightly more forgiving difficulty curve.

 

Hmm... SCIV can be a frustrating game, but I have to disagree about that: there certainly is a (relatively) forgiving difficulty curve. It’s just that things do get much harder later on. And, to be fair, the difficulty curve is not smooth in places like the Clock Tower, for example.

 

The way I see it is that Super Castlevania IV is a game that is always testing you in three key gameplay areas:

  1. Whipping (in 8 directions + swinging)
  2. Verticality (jumping, falling, enemies above or below you, etc)
  3. Stairs

It's a fairly strict teacher, and you usually don't get a second chance on the same life, but I don't see it as unfair. I grew up with these game design philosophies, so maybe it's a mild case of Stockholm Syndrome. SCIV is a game that chooses you, and maybe not the other way around. The randomness of the game also presents mini-challenges or lucky breaks at times, and I like that about it.

 

One moment that stands out to me is in Stage 9, when a skeleton was hanging around the edge of a platform as I was jumping towards it, with the ground disappearing below. Normally, that skeleton stands a bit farther back, so this was going to be tricky to go through. I lobbed an axe at the skeleton, and two jumps later whipped down-right and then quickly whipped him again as I landed on the platform right next to it. It was a really tense moment, and I felt a rush when I pulled it off. I imagine it might not be the same for everyone, especially if you don't click with the game.

 

Nevertheless, it's telling that Castlevania gradually started to get rid of all these "classic" elements from this point forward. I believe one of the basic design points of SOTN was "no stairs."

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Started in on my journey with this - been way too long since I tackled it. And yes, it’s not as complex as the games that came after it, and yes, the OST is killer, but what really sticks with me is how visceral it all is. The animation supports the idea that those whip hits have serious force, and when I fall - which is often - I do so with serious force. Lovely game. I might even finish it within the month!

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I finally got a start on this a couple of days ago (having finally finished RE:0) and rekindled my old memories once again. I have vague flashbacks here and there but the majority of the game feels like I’m playing it for the first time. 

 

So far I’ve made it up to stage 8 and for a while, those downward spears that get you near the disappearing platforms (another pain in the arse bit) were really doing my head in due to the random nature of how they move, until

I realised you just have to crawl

 

 

Generally I’ve enjoyed the stages so far and felt they aren’t to bad but have a bit of a challenge, which I liked whilst playing Eswat the other month. The bosses though are often brutal, but made easier by the fact you can take them down quick by brute force. It’s pretty much how I’ve ended up finishing them off most of the time with my health a couple of times recently being on 1 bar. 

 

It is a decent game so far.

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Inspired by this ai also had a serious crack at Castlevania Bloodlines, a game which has been sitting in my to do pile for way too long. 
 

and I only  finished it! Interesting one - I prefer IV’s music and whip physics, but there’s some amazing designs and spot effects for the humble old Megadrive/Genesis in there. 

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On 05/12/2019 at 19:46, Qazimod said:

World 8 down. Man that was hard... but it's not overly long, and a lot of it's pattern recognition - dying trying to figure out when it's safe to move forward, until eventually you can move forward. I did note down a bunch of little things to help me preserve life in the early moments - those big spiders go down in one whip, for instance, and when you're caught in the crossfire of those demon head statues and a floating eyeball, you can bait the eyeball towards you and scroll the screen so that the statues aren't firing!

 

A little later on there's a bit where you're on a pillar and the pillar across from you has more fireball-spitting demon head things, but you can crouch-sneak back and forth just on the edge so that it's in whipping range (whilst being mindful of the other hazards!) With the transition into the next area, I died a lot trying to find out if you had to jump onto or under falling spike platforms, but later on in 8-1 you do get a bit of a breather (and some wall chicken!)

 

The initial descent at the start of 8-2 isn't too bad but the gauntlet of ceiling spikes and disappearing platforms just before the boss seems brutal - I don't know if there's actually some kind of pattern to the spikes but I think you're just supposed to book it and hope for the best! (The boss was pretty straightforward in comparison...)

 

  Reveal hidden contents

QAZI'S CURRENT PROGRESS - PASSWORD

BLANK BLANK BLANK AXE
HOLY WATER HOLY WATER BLANK BLANK
BLANK HOLY WATER BLANK HOLY WATER
HEART HOLY WATER BLANK BLANK

 

 

I pointed this out in my last post but there’s something I missed which I think you did too regarding those spikes.

you can crawl through the entire passage and not get hit at all

I was lucky to get to the boss and take it down first try so I’m now on Level 9. It doesn’t feel hard but there are lots of cheap deaths around the stairs when the screen rises and you fall or get hit and go off screen resulting in death. 

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@Soulstar - yeah, I found that out after I had done it the hard way :lol: Also, I think maybe...

 

Spoiler

I tried timed advances whilst crouched, thinking that the combination of waiting for opportunities and crouching was what helped... :P 

 

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I started playing this and honestly, it hasn’t aged well. The music is obviously epic but the graphics are fucked! 

 

The colour pallet looks like it was designed by a severely colour blind person and most of the tile sets are so insane they look like graphical glitching! 

 

Still, in its defence, it is still pretty fun. I played up to the gem beast, stoved his head in and called it a day. 

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4 hours ago, Qazimod said:

@Soulstar - yeah, I found that out after I had done it the hard way :lol: Also, I think maybe...

 

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I tried timed advances whilst crouched, thinking that the combination of waiting for opportunities and crouching was what helped... :P 

 

 

I spent ages doing it by walking and trying to Ben lucky but would always fall through the disappearing floor tiles afterwards, then eventually figured out the spikes and managed to get lucky with the floor tiles,  then fortunately did the boss right after as it wasn’t quite as hadn’t as some of the others. The knife helps a lot too. 

 

 

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Getting closer now. Just finished the stage with the cogs and the hook swings which took quite a few attempts thanks to very easy deaths if you make a mistake. Takes a bit of learning to get the full hang of it. Did the mummy boss without too much fuss once I studied the patterns. Time for stage B. 

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Anddddd it's done. Had plenty of moments on that last stage and during the bosses that lead me to swearing in frustration. The level part does get easier once you learn it better but there are lots of annoying situations such as falling through stairs when trying to jump on them which seems to happen sometimes and not others. The most annoying bit was the last part with the rising rocks where you have to get from the right side of the screen to the left without touching those spikes. You barely have to touch the spikes to die and use the rocks to get up but this bit feels very much like it's relying on luck because if they don't form up in the right way then you aren't going to get across to safety in time.

 

The last bosses all came back to me and were similar to how I remembered however thankfully I had imagined that you had to restart from the first boss after losing a continue but that's not the case. I remember hating the grim reaper part and it is annoying but I was lucky to take it down on just a few attempts. The last boss itself is tough initially, but you can regenerate health a certain points which helps a lot. 

 

It was great to have gone back to SCV IV to have another crack at it since I first played it way back in the 90's. There's definitely an awkwardness to it at times and it does have a challenge, but it's certainly doable if you persevere. I just stuck to using the password system instead of save states and it wasn't too bad. 

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So having been bitten by the Castlevania bug badly, I decided I’d try my hand at Kid Dracula. 
 

A surprisingly unforgiving “kid’s game”, but I finished it around 9ish... and I still had time to spare before NYE in Sydney. So I thought I’d have a crack at finishing off Castlevania IV as well. 
 

It too has challenges, although they’re a little more fairly spaced out than Kid Dracula. But with the time ticking away, it became as much a challenge of finishing it in 2019, not 2020. 
 

The Grim Reaper kept on killing me and killling me and it took some time to get his pattern down. Drac himself was easier - he’s tougher in the NES original I’d say - but at 11:59 I laid in the final whip blow. Mission accomplished, and a few other Vanias knocked off my to do list as well. All in all, a tidy whip swinging month!

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I only managed to get to stage 4 in this in December due to Christmas nonsense getting in the way, but it's a fun game. I never played it back in the day so my experience is nostalgia free. I'm definitely going to keep playing methinks.

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For a final bit of closure I went back and did the final stage without using the secret boss fountain today. Since I was tracking passwords in my previous posts I could get there straight away, and I think attempting it so many times beforehand probably helped a little here! For the opening phase you can kind of jump and time your swing at his head as he appears, then hop back and swing downward at the projectile... The firey enemies are a bit trickier, but I think the idea is to bait them down towards you from one side and then walk the other way just before they get there, and turn and whip them. Also, that single bullet he sends out that gives you a pork chop seems to be a "phase" in itself - originally I thought it was a random attack and I was getting lucky, but I believe at a certain health threshold he just keeps using it on you. Anyway, I think you can eat a hit from it and still gain more health from the pork chop than whatever you lost, so it's worth using it to your advantage.

 

In the final phase where the music comes back I just ended up racing to get his health down before he did the same to me - even though I didn't use the boss fountain I may have still exploited the pork chop bullet :P so I was at full health when the phase began...

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@Qazimod 

First of all, what the hell is the “secret boss fountain”? I didn’t know anything about this when I finished it recently but I wanted to add a bit to what you mentioned in terms of my tactics. 

 

So like when you mentioned using your whip to take down those fire bullets in the first phase. I personally jumped over them after hitting him in the head which initially felt super difficult but is possible once you get used to it. 

 

The pork chops from the ball is super handy because he doesn’t move into his next phase until you hit him several times meaning you can build up your health to max. 

 

The last phase looks simple but it’s easy to get struck by the bolts and it takes loads of health off so you can often die. I built my health to max before moving on as his porkshop giving phase helps a lot. 

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Before you ascend the stairs into the final location, you can jump through the stairs onto an invisible platform below, and then walk down an invisible staircase - this causes a bunch of power-ups (pork chops to refill your health, 99+ hearts, a cross, double shot (II) and triple shot (III) power-ups (allowing Simon to throw more projectiles in succession)) to spawn from above and fall onto Simon. Then you can make your way back to the stairs and proceed to the boss.

 

Unless you're wondering what the heck my terminology is :D "boss fountain" is just another way of saying "that bit before a boss where the game gives you a load of weapons, ammo and health".

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@Qazimod 

 

No I genuinely never knew about that little hidden bonus at all. I also didn’t know what those numbered squares were for until now. I take it those are what you’re referring to?

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If this is still going I'm well overdue a run through CV4! I'm really glad to see so many people here enjoying it. I received it for Christmas in 1992, when I was 6, and it's been one of my favourite games since. It has a lot of really carefully considered level design, an unmatched sense of artistic ambition and focus, and one of the most haunting and memorable soundtracks the SNES has ever belted out, which manages to draw from a broad and eclectic range of influences whilst still having really strong thematic development. CV4's also a lot easier to recommend to new players than any of the earlier classic Castlevanias, since it's generally a fair bit easier to get into and gives you multiple ways of dealing with most situations. Since people are talking about secrets, here's my favourite: in the second half of stage 6 (with the green stone floors, after all the swinging chandeliers), you can break part of the floor to reveal a staircase leading to a hidden room. If you go down there you see an old man ambling back and forth aimlessly whilst his dog runs around. There's no way of interacting with the man, but if you kill his dog he kneels next to it, sobbing. Shortly after, they both disappear in flames. It's an oddly poignant, eerie encounter that's similar in tone to some of the secrets in SotN, like the confession booth ghosts, etc.

 

Edit: the room even has its own unique music, and of course it's sublime.

 

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